Local heroes II | Four cool China-themed sessions at Wine to Asia

The second Wine to Asia—postponed in June, postponed in August and hopefully, fingers crossed, held sans incident next month in Shenzhen—has four intriguing Chinese wine sessions on the slate.

One event is billed as a master lab rather than a master class—they are all master classes now as no one goes retro to hold a regular ol’ class. Master lab means people don’t passively sit and absorb info but instead get busy at their seats.

In this case, winemaker Tong Lili of Manzhouxiang will lead a Marselan blending lab, something she has done dozens of times with consumers and trade people across China but never at a major wine exhibition like this. Tong makes Marselan with grapes from the Penglai Peninsula in Shandong province and from Huailai County just outside Beijing in Hebei province.

I’ve joined one of Tong’s sessions and every participant gets a set of base wines and blending tools. It was informative and fun to make a half-dozen blends on my own and see what grape combinations I enjoyed–see my writeup here.

I also helped organize a session in June at The Merchants in Beijing, sponsored by Wine to Asia to keep the spirit of the event alive after COVID-19 forced the fair to be postponed in Shenzhen. That session brought together wine bar owners and managers, importers, writers and more for a fun morning of blending and learning about one of the most important grapes in China.

December 2: Wine to Asia will also feature a vertical tasting of Grace Vineyard wines led by company CEO Judy Chan. As has been noted here often, Shanxi-based Grace easily ranks among the most important wineries in China the past 20 years, and stands alone in my opinion in putting out a diverse range of high-quality good-value wines that entire time. Over the years, Grace has added new varieties like Aglianico and Marselan, a series of sparkling wines and a first official wine from its Ningxia operation. See this post for my 20-question Q&A with Chan on Grace’s 20th anniversary.

December 4: Another major wine producer with quite a range of wines, including Riesling, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Merlot, Pinot Noir and more is Canaan in Huailai Country. Chief winemaker Zhao Desheng is a veteran there and also has about two decades under his at neighboring sibling winery Domaine Franco-Chinois. Zhao will lead a tasting of the Canaan’s wines, bottled under the name Chapter and Verse, a brand nearly 15 years in the making before the first commercial wines were released less than two years ago.

December 4: And Sun Miao and Peng Shuai of Domaines des Aromes in Ningxia will lead a session focused on their winemaking philosophy, which includes a strong biodynamic theme. Aromes has long intrigued because its wines stand as unique from so many other Ningxia producers, which tend to make bigger, fruitier and oakier drops. Aromes also has one of the coolest cellars, a space that seems ideal for hanging a few disco balls, getting a strobe light going and bringing in a funk band once a year. (Just a suggestion!)

Beyond these China wine-centric events are dozens more, including the first San Marino master class. Check out the full range here.

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